Content from original articleThree new additions to its Aussie line-up, including two new side-by-sides to take advantage of a farmer-led shift towards the safety and comfort factor of four-wheelers
CFMoto continues to forge ahead in Australia, with its ever-growing roadbike range (latest here) sitting alongside its mainstay ATV and UTV (aka utility side-by-side) line-ups.
We've mentioned in the past how the export-orientated Chinese company is one of the leaders in the 'value-for-money' stakes in Australia, and that's been reaffirmed yet again with a visit to the impossibly enjoyable Melbourne 4x4 Training and Proving Ground to try out its new X550 ATV and U550 UTV.
The three machines – there's also a premium-spec U550 LE version – are all powered by an all-new 495cc liquid-cooled SOHC single-cylinder engine with Bosch fuel-injection. It's an impressive piece of kit and blows the company's air-cooled 500cc engine out of the water with 17 per cent more power and a 13 per cent hike in torque -- not to mention being 12kg lighter.
But it's the list of standard features which really packs a punch.
The X550 comes with electronic power steering, winch kit, tow kit, alloy wheels and front and rear racks, all for $8790 rideaway. That price also includes indicators, mirrors and handguards, while the U550 retails for $11,450 rideaway with alloy wheels, tow pack and gas-assisted tip tray, and the U550 LE adds a winch kit, roof, electronic power steering and windscreen for $12,990 rideaway.
Both UTVs also have ROPS-certified frames, three-point seat belts, adjustable seats and steering wheels, CVT transmissions, braided brake lines, selectable 2WD/4WD modes and independent front and rear suspension.
The LE-spec U550 dominated the UTV test fleet at the proving ground, and that was the machine I drove first. Once you've settled into the bucket seat it's just a matter of turning the key, throwing it into gear and then getting down to business, the belt-driven CVT transmission getting the power to the ground.
The confidence-inspiring nature of UTVs cannot be underestimated, as well as their ability to cover more varied terrain and the sheer comfort factor they provide. When you're turning off a bore at 3:00am in the middle of a cold winter's night, I know where I'd rather be – and that's not on an ATV!
UTVs have such a 'churn' factor as well, and most farmers could happily spent most of their time in two-wheel drive. The U550 masterfully proved that was the case – even some river crossings that filled the footwells with water were easy to get through. By the way, the footwells drained within seconds…
The transmission has 'High' and 'Low' settings in both two and four-wheel drive modes, and there's also differential lock for the more extreme stuff. Unless you're bogged, diff lock probably won't come into play for the majority of farmers – and hunters for that matter. CFMoto recommends stopping the U550 to shift between two- and four-wheel drive.
Considering that the U550 weighs over 600kg, the new single-cylinder engine doesn't shirk the issue and gets the UTV humming with some real bite from a standing start. You won't be seeing a massive top speed – about 85km/h – but that's not what it's about. Peak torque of 46Nm arrives at 5800rpm, and power signs off at 38hp (28kW) at 6800rpm. There's no hesitation from the engine with its excellent fueling, so you won't be caught out when smooth power delivery is required. The U550 has a 26-litre fuel tank, so farmers should get quite a few hours under the belt before refills.
The power steering is another reason why the U550 LE represents an excellent buy: it's in the $3K bundle of extra goodies over the U550 but it only retails for $1540 more. The power steering helps to iron out the 'choppiness' in rough terrain, and there's less lurching and rocking for the driver to contend with.
It may be a utility, but the U550 also enjoys having a little bit of fun. It pitches into turns hard and fast and there's plenty of ground clearance (280mm). The limits of the chassis and suspension are only really reached when it starts to understeer a little on the exits when the pace gets a little hot. But that's no deal breaker – and if you want to be a racer CFMoto has the Z8 range of sports side-by-sides. The Z8 line-up is number one in Australia.
But back to reality: the towing capacity of the U550 is 550kg, and the carrying limit is 230kg. The tip tray is easily operated by a lever on the side of the vehicle, and you can also leave the tailgate open to make it easier to move stuff. The tailgate and hinges are made of stern stuff too, so they won't wilt under the strain.
In Australia, the U550s are sold alongside CFMoto's U8 UTV, which is also available in standard and LE configurations. The U550 is available in blue only, and the U550 LE in black, silver, camo or blue.
The two-seater X550 ATV was next – and it initially felt like a rocket in the lighter, tauter configuration compared to the UTV. It started to feel 'normal' after a few minutes, but I was most impressed with the suspension. Through some lopsided and deep whoops it held its own, and I didn't feel like I was being pitched around like a rag doll. It also maintained an element of plushness: all the harshness was being taken out of the equation before my arms and torso copped the full brunt of it.
The carrying capacity of the X550 is 105kg: 35 at the front and 70 at the rear. The ATV has preload adjustment front and rear, so farmers can adjust the suspension accordingly – which is important as poor weight distribution can adversely affect handling, sometimes with dire consequences.
The cargo racks are easy to disassemble, and the backrest on the Australian-spec X550 is also easily removed. Colours are blue, silver, camo, black or orange.
CFMoto has made massive inroads in Australia, and it's easy to see why. There's a real maturity about its products, and the UTV sector is really a bull market at the moment where farmers are abandoning their ATVs in favour of the comfort and security that UTVs provide.
And when a quality spec-rich UTV can be purchased for just under $12K with the 'full bag of fruit', why not? With the money saved there, you could just about park a Z8 in the garage as well as a weekend sporting outlet... All bases covered!